Health Alert: Combat nurses

NATIONAL - Caring for the wounded during a time of war may be one of the biggest challenges in a combat nurses career. Now nursing schools are offering programs, supported by the military, to train students to be top notch combat nurses.

Working on a mannequin may seem like child's play compared to treating real-life war injuries, but nursing students are sharpening their lifesaving skills as part of advanced training.

Captain Maria Shelton was deployed to Iraq in 2004. She saw some serious trauma cases.

"Shootings, both with the Iraqi National Police and victims that were shot on the local side, soldiers that were injured," she recalls.

Captain Shelton is back in school working on her masters in nursing. It's part of a military partnership that helps train combat nurses. It offers accelerated programs for those with medical experience, like Captain Shelton or entry-level programs for students without nursing experience. All receive free tuition, fees and books.

Dr. Linda Porter-Wenzlaff says "they can take things like trauma nursing, they can take emergency room nursing, critical care nursing, so they get a chance to fine tune some of those skills."

Major Pat McAndrews is in grad school, too. He was deployed to Baghdad in 2004 and helped treat hundreds of trauma patients a month. "Trauma from small arms fire, from improvised explosive devices, everything," McAndrews explained.

He's one semester shy of graduation and is anxious to go back to Iraq.

"I think I can do a better job and also, too, I bring a little bit more to the table in that I have more education, a little bit more depth in some clinical experiences."

Both students can now serve with greater confidence and knowledge.

The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio is one of many nursing schools in the country with a military partnership.

Those students who complete the program without any military experience graduate as second lieutenants and agree to serve for eight years.

Posted by Bryce Mursch